Decision hangs on sportsground

COFFS Harbour City Council is being wedged between a rock and a hard place by the Coramba community.

On Thursday, the councillors will have to decide whether to agree to fund the Coramba sportsground to the tune of $25,000 a year, or risk being left with the total bill for maintenance and improvement of the Orara Valley Axemen’s homeground.

The Orara Valley Progress Association has offered to take over the lease of the sportsground from the Orara Valley Axemen Rugby League Football Club, provided that the council can support them with $25,000 a year, a sum which is calculated to cover the annual cost of mowing and maintenance of the ground.

The OVPA has said it will match this sum through fundraising, federal, state and local grant money and philanthropic donations.

But if the council baulks at coughing up the cash, it is likely that the progress association will lose interest in taking over the lease.

If the progress association backs out, the football club is likely to reconsider its position and its financial capacity to continue the present arrangement.

If the sportsground was handed back to council to manage and operate, the costs to council would probably be much higher than $25,000 a year.

The full annual cost of management, operation, administration, maintenance and repair for Coramba Sportsground is currently estimated at $40,000 a year.

Under the proposed arrangement, the football club would remain the primary user of the sportsground and have priority of use for its regular training activities and games.

The club would also retain its right to operate the bar at the sportsground for all events and activities at the facility.

Last year the progress association was approached by the football club to take over the lease, because of a number of problems.

The reasons for the request included that the ground was being under-used and was unable to cater for local schools and clubs because of the lack of facilities and the current management regime.

The cost of maintaining the ground was also causing financial hardship for the football club and taking away its focus on playing football.

Because of the nature of the organisation, the football club was also unable to apply for grant funds to help it in improving the facility.

The progress association would be in a better position to apply for grant funding.

Orara Valley primary schools are supporting the proposed change, because last year these small country schools were unable to make use of Coramba Sportsground for sports carnivals because of occupational health and safety issues.

There are almost 500 children attending primary schools within the Orara Valley learning community.

Coffs Harbour City Council staff advisers have recommended that councillors consider allocating the $25,000 a year and consent to transferring the lease from the Axemen to the Progress Association.

Coramba Sportsground is Crown reserve and council is the corporate manager of the Reserve Trust, having taken on this role in 2003.

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